A New World of Platforms for Brokerages
by Mike McHenry, VP of Channels and Partnerships, MoxiWorks
The difference between closed and open platforms exposed
- A platform is like a power strip; it lets you plug and unplug tools
- An open platform differentiates a broker’s tool set, aiding recruiting and retention
- The difference between a closed and open platform is monumental
A “Platform” is whatever you want it to be
Platforms have existed in technology for ages. Most industries have already adopted them, but it’s a relatively new idea for a residential brokerage. I’ve noticed that the word “platform” is being thrown around heavily right now - it’s the 2017 buzz word and because of that, it’s starting to lose its meaning.
Some of these vendors that are calling themselves “platforms,” however, don’t actually do what they should and because of that, you’ll need to know what to look for. There are five basic services that a proper platform should have and offer:
- Property data that can be shared across all tools eliminating redundant entry
- Brokerage and agent data that’s up to date
- Consumer data so technology can help agents manage their SOI
- Integration with both Microsoft and Google cloud environment to easily and securely share data across tech companies
- An API (it allows other tech companies to integrate and share common data)
Let’s also put some rumors to rest. Just because you use a platform doesn’t mean you need to embrace the entire platform. It would be insane for a single brokerage to use every single one of our 30 integrated partners. A platform is whatever you want it to be for your brokerage.
Also, Security isn’t an inherent problem in open platforms just because a system is open, doesn’t mean it’s insecure. YouTube for instance, is an open platform site. No one is afraid to use it.
Closed vs. Open Platforms
I have to shed light on how important the distinction between a closed vs. open platform is. Many vendors that call themselves “platforms” are just products that sit on a database with no API – meaning they have no way to communicate effectively with one another. Here are some examples:
Open platform: Microsoft Windows. Windows is an operating system that allows you to download whatever you want, whether that’s QuickBooks for your taxes or Adobe Photoshop, and delete the apps you no longer want or use. If apple is more your speed, think iPhone and the AppStore.
Closed platform: Video game consoles. If you buy a game for Xbox and you get a Sony PlayStation, you have to buy your games all over again. The choice is not up to you if you ever decide to switch.
As a broker, this means with a closed platform you have to go with whatever tools the vendor chose to work with OR the vendor built it all themselves and can’t afford to evolve it over time at the same speed as competitors. Either way, it can be a disastrous future for a brokerage.
The reality is, no one can be great at everything. An open platform allows a brokerage to get all of the best tools out there, have them work together, and can change tools at will - hassle free.
Open Platform Benefits
If you’re a broker and you’ve already invested in some tech solutions over the past three or four years like a digital transaction tool, gifting, or lead partners, you don’t have to change them to get on an open platform; you integrate them and preserve your investment in agent training. That’s why an open platform is so dominant: the power and tools stay in the brokerages hands. They help companies retain the tools they love and find replacements for the ones they aren’t jiving with.
If you choose a platform provider for those benefits today, that provider can help you flawlessly transition as new tools come online in the future. At the end of the day that’s what everyone wants right? No headaches and a shorter list of items for a brokerage to worry about.
If those are not good enough reasons to use an open platform, then how about this: money. Maintenance and support are cheaper on an open platform because it leverages the entire community that makes up the cloud. Development time also decreases. Boeing doesn’t make aircrafts, they assemble them.
What’s an Ecosystem?
This is another term used in the platform realm. An ecosystem is a collection of complimentary applications all working together, sharing data, that make the whole greater than the sum of the parts. Each platform has its own ecosystem that makes up the cloud.
Again, think of your iPhone. You can have all of your applications together so that the device becomes an indispensable business tool. You get to pick à la carte whatever applications you need and don’t have to worry about how they work together. If you find later you don’t like an application, you can delete it and install a different one.
Why a Brokerage Should Care
It’s no secret that the pace of change for real estate technology is accelerating. We know that there are hundreds of companies making technology for residential real estate, which makes for thousands of applications available for use today.
What this means to a brokerage owner is that there’s no way to predict which companies and applications are going to succeed or even to envision what technologies will come into the market in the future.
Having a platform and ecosystem of applications that run on it is the key to agent productivity and retention. If you don’t think that having a complete integrated technology platform and applications to offer your agents is important, talk to a broker that just lost an agent to Compass.
If you choose the right platform, you’re going to get most of the benefits that Upstream promises for your brokerage today and will future-proof your brokerage for what’s to come in the future.